Book Launch: “Herbert Aptheker: Studies in Willful Blindness”

My first book went live on Amazon today. Its introduction and first chapter were originally blog posts, but the rest the book consists of essays published over the past five years. If you can help spread the word, please do. I’ll prepare a paperback version. I now append the book description.—Anthony Flood

Herbert Aptheker (1915-2003), a pioneering researcher in African-American slave revolts, was also an American Communist theoretician. Anthony Flood, who attended Aptheker’s lectures a half-century ago, became his research assistant, friend and comrade. Decades after Flood repudiated the comradeship, it dawned on him that Aptheker’s politics had blocked his research in his area of specialization: he failed to recognize The Black Jacobins, the work of C. L. R. James (1901-1989) that chronicled the only successful slave revolt in modern times. The failure was ideological.

In the course of investigating this silence, Flood discovered scholars who admired both writers, but never at the same time. Doing so would have forced them to address the uncomfortable truth that one of their heroes ignored the other. That is, the white radical scholar ignored the black radical scholar who was 14 years his senior. The only explanation, Flood contends, is that Aptheker, the Stalinist, could not bring himself to acknowledge the work of James, the Trotskyist.

There are other problems with Aptheker’s legacy, of course, such as his uncovering the truth about slavery in the Americas while covering it up in the Soviet Union and its satellites. The “dissing” of James, however, undermines his “anti-racism” reputation as well as his argument that “partisanship with the oppressed” makes objectivity in history writing possible. He was a partisan of too many oppressors. He eventually admitted his own “willful blindness” (his words), yet that didn’t stop him from defending, as late as 2000, The Truth about Hungary, his book-length apologia for the Soviet Union’s crushing of the 1956 Hungarian revolution.

Herbert Aptheker: Studies in Willful Blindness includes not only Flood’s essay on Aptheker and James, but also vignettes of his coming into Aptheker’s life as a high school student and that of Sidney Hook (Aptheker’s nemesis and Flood’s philosophy professor). Also included are a review of the first biography of Aptheker and an inquiry into Aptheker’s status as an historian. Appendices include Aptheker’s first essay (in The American Hebrew) and Flood’s first letter on Aptheker (in The Journal of American History).

Herbert Aptheker expressed the ethos of the American Communist Party in its heyday, an atmosphere that pervades “progressive” American politics today. If you want to look at his role in that “progression,” this monograph is a good place to start.

Once more on Romans 13: James Redford’s “Jesus Is an Anarchist”

As I have an interest in dislodging the sediment of encrusted theological opinion, today I post an excerpt from James Redford’s 2001 essay “Jesus Is an Anarchist,” the text of which is here: anti-state.com and revised and expanded in 2011. It complements Otis Q. Sellers’s situating of Romans 13:1-7 in the Acts dispensation, posted recently.—Anthony Flood

It is often claimed that Christians are required to submit to government, as this is supposedly what Paul commanded that we are supposed to do in Romans 13. Thus:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. Romans 13:1-7

But in actual fact Paul never does tell us in above excerpt from Romans 13 to submit to government!—at least certainly not as they have existed on Earth and are operated by men.

In fact, Paul would be an outright, boldfaced hypocrite were he to command anyone to do such a thing: for Paul himself did not submit to government, and if he had then he would not even have been alive to be able to write Romans 13.

Continue reading “Once more on Romans 13: James Redford’s “Jesus Is an Anarchist””

Romans 13: another contrarian interpretation

Last week I posted Eric Voegelin’s “Theoretical Inquiry into Romans 13,” which exposes the weaponization of the Apostle Paul’s words in the service of the state, even Hitler’s, making every scoundrel with executive authority an ordained minister. After reading it, libertarian scholar Gerard N. Casey brought to my attention other alternative interpretations of Romans 13:1-7,  readings that regard the “powers that be” to be, not “civil,” but rather ecclesial or spiritual. Those views pass in review in Casey’s magisterial Freedom’s Progress?: A History of Political Thoughtwhich I unreservedly recommend to my visitors, especially (for its relevance to our topic) pages 198-209.

Today I share with you yet another view, one I discovered forty years ago, but only now am willing to own. It’s from the pen of the late Otis Q. Sellers (1901-1992), whose life I’m researching for a biography. Today happens to be his birthday.—Anthony G. Flood

The  Powers That Be

Otis Q. Sellers (1901-1992)

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.” This is Paul’s positive declaration recorded in Romans 13:1, and there is no verse in Scripture that has been misapplied more than this one. In all church theology “the higher powers” are made to be the civil authorities, whoever they may be in any country and at any time. And it needs to be said that of all the absurd interpretations ever made by theologians, this one takes first prize. It is unworkable and unbelievable, and it cannot be followed out through the additional statements that follow this declaration.

Continue reading “Romans 13: another contrarian interpretation”

Eric Voegelin on Romans 13

The following “Theoretical Inquiry into Romans 13” has been taken from Eric Voegelin, Hitler and the Germans, translated and edited by Detlev Clemens and Brendan Purcell, University of Missouri Press, 2003, 178-183. This is from a lecture Voegelin gave at the University of Munich in the summer of 1964. I have taken the liberty of breaking up long paragraphs. I’ll share another contrarian interpretation of Romans 13 next week.—Anthony G. Flood

Theoretical Inquiry into Romans 

Image result for Eric Voegelin, Hitler and the GermansAnd now, in concluding this investigation on the Evangelical side, a theoretical inquiry into Romans 13 for the Evangelical part, and then for the Catholic part an inquiry into the theological idea of the corpus mysticum Christi, so that the decadence I have repeatedly spoken of will come to light.

In all the documents, Evangelical and Catholic, with which those belonging to the communities were enjoined to obey Hitler, there are two texts from the Bible invoked by the clergy in order to command obedience to the authorities. Among the two, on the Catholic side, in the documents I will present to you next time, the fourth commandment is preferred. That commandment is “Honor your father and your mother.” This father and mother is now interpretatively expanded as “Honor the state, carry out its laws, obey the authorities!”

Please note that. Not a word of all that is in the fourth commandment—for the good historical reason that precisely in the covenant of Sinai, within which the Decalogue was announced, the people existed under God and not under authorities. There was no occasion for speaking about having to obey any kind of authorities at all. So it is unhistoric and anachronistic, and if such an alteration of an interpretative kind were made to a text in a secular context by a scholar, one would say: Absolutely barefaced falsification of the text!  When theologians do it, then it is the church.

Continue reading “Eric Voegelin on Romans 13”

“We were the first fascists”: from Garvey to Farrakhan

On August 13, 1920 Marcus Garvey presided at the convention of the United Negro Improvement Association held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. There he promulgated the Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World. Its 54 points comprise the farthest thing from a fascist manifesto.

And yet, as my friend Hugh Murray noted a quarter-century ago, Garvey “admired . . . leading anti-communists, such as Mussolini. Indeed, in 1937 Garvey proudly proclaimed of his Universal Negro Improvement Association, ‘We were the first fascists.’[1]

Here’s the full quote:

We were the first Fascists, when we had 100,000 disciplined men, and were training children, Mussolini was still an unknown. Mussolini copied our Fascism.[2]

He said this in 1937, after Mussolini consolidated his rape of Ethiopia.

While many liberals [Murray continues] are the first to hurl the word “fascist” at those with whom they disagree, they usually ignore the fascism of blacks, even when publicly advocated.[3]

A few years after Hugh wrote those words, King’s College Professor of American and English Literature Paul Gilroy came out with “Black Fascism” (Transition, Indiana UPress, 2000, 70-91), a scholarly monograph on Garvey’s boast, the first instance of Black public advocacy of fascism. I recommend it to students of this overlooked chapter of Black American history.

George Lincoln Rockwell, center

On June 25, 1961 American Nazi Party Commander George Lincoln Rockwell sat in the Uline Arena, Washington, DC (where the Beatles would give their first US concert a few years later). He was there at the invitation of Nation of Islam (NOI) leader Elijah Muhammad. Thousands were in attendance. During the collection, Rockwell shouted:

George Lincoln Rockwell gives $20!

Continue reading ““We were the first fascists”: from Garvey to Farrakhan”

Martin Luther King’s 90th: a friend remembers

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Prince George Motel, Miami, 1960

Hugh Murray, Civil Rights Movement veteran, Scottboro Boys historian, and my fellow Herbert Aptheker research assistant, marked the 90th anniversary of King’s birth today (which was actually last Tuesday) with an email to friends. I share it with his permission:

To All,  HAPPY MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY.  I certainly do not believe King was a saint; few people are. He is memorable because of the courage he showed in standing up when it was difficult, and in the end, standing up against all the forces of the US government. While he was preaching non-violence, the Feds paid various Blacks to join his movement and use violence to discredit King. I think the Feds even supplied the weapons. One such was a civil rights photographer, and recently it was discovered just what he was doing for the Feds to undermine King. There is a reason that many documents relating to the assassinations of JF Kennedy and ML King are still kept from the public. Trump angered the Deep State when he opened some of the material, but eventually Trump caved and kept some materials secret. About murders in 1963 and 1968!? It is not to protect the reputations of Lee Harvey Oswald or James Earl Ray. It is to protect government agencies. Well, as the Scots say, cheerio! Hugh Murray

In summer of 1960 King and others (including Jackie Robinson, the centenary of whose birth is ten days away) trained about two dozen civil rights activists, including Hugh, in the strategy and tactics of non-violent civil disobedience. The sessions were held in the Prince George Motel in Miami. The photo at the head of this post was taken at one of them. Here’s the other side of the room. Hugh’s on the right:

A month after this session Hugh helped integrate a Woolworth’s lunch counter in New Orleans, his home town. Forty years ago he recalled this event and others, including the workshop with King, in “The Struggle for Civil Rights in New Orleans in 1960: Reflections and Recollections.” Here are other pix from long ago:

Future Freedom Rider Jerome Smith, a 21-year-old Hugh T. Murray, Jr., and others integrate Woolworth’s counter during the first New Orleans sit-in. September 9, 1960. Below is the same scene from a different angle. Hugh’s third from the right. The gentleman standing behind them is not waiting for a seat to become available, but rather the reason Hugh took off his glasses. No violence ensued at this protest. Both pix are from NOLA.com

The September 10, 1960 edition of the Biloxi MS Daily Herald links ran “College Students Held in Sit-In in New Orleans” on its first page. After listing Hugh, Smith and several others the reporter notes: “Hugh Murray Sr. attempted to get his son to leave the others but police would not allow him past the barricade.”

It has been my pleasure to provide a platform for my good friend’s papers over the past fifteen years: Hugh Murray: Independent Scholar. His autobiography will be well worth reading. I pray he’ll get around to writing it.

 

Murray Rothbard: on my late friend’s lamentable error

“I was sure I was going to predecease him.”

That’s how my friend Father James A. Sadowsky (1923-2012) confirmed the news of the passing of Murray Newton Rothbard (1926–1995) two dozen years ago today.

Picture 1It was after Sunday Mass at St. Agnes. Finishing breakfast with friends in a 42nd Street a coffee shop, I excused myself to call (using a 20th-century pay phone) my wife who, enduring a cold, couldn’t join me in Manhattan that wintry day.

“Father Sadowsky called,” she said. “Murray Rothbard died yesterday.”

It’s now been almost 36 years since the first chat that began my friendship with Murray, which continued through his last dozen years. His writings, illuminated by conversations, formed a major part of my education in economics, history, and politics. His personal influence makes it difficult to make a selection among the many memories.

Reading Man, Economy & State , a project I began on March 22, 1983, inspired me to call him one evening. Barely two months into it, I looked up his number (in a 20th-century phone book) and made bold to use it on May 18 (my diary says): “I got six new [libertarian] leads from him, including a Fordham [University] history professor who lives in Jackson Heights [John McCar­thy] . . . . Rothbard is so easy to talk to and make laugh. . . . Look for­ward to meeting him in the Fall [at the Libertarian Party National Convention].”Image result for murray rothbard

Finishing that stout tome on June 19th marked the end of my political wilderness-wandering to which I had sentenced myself after breaking with Marxism six years earlier. By the time my “Jürgen Habermas’s Critique of Marxism” was published in the Winter 1977/1978 issue Science & Society, a Stalinoid academic journal, I was in the free market camp.  (Its text with corrections and editorial notes is freely available here.) But I didn’t find National Review conservatism sufficiently inspiring.

Less than a year later I was invited to particiapte in Murray’s 1984 seminar on the history of economic thought:

Last Rothbard class was a damning critique of Adam Smith.  Smith has almost no libertarian credentials. Marx can have him. . . . [T]here’s an essay in the latest Libertarian Vanguard that Rothbard wants me to read, and Mark [Brady] is going to copy for me . . . . Murray Rothbard was very friendly again with me after class. He’s busy packing for his move to Stanford CA, so, he says, he’s sorry he couldn’t have invited Gloria and me to dinner. Discussed my Christian libertarian idea with him on the bus. I’m flattered.” (May 4, 1984; unless otherwise marked, dates refer to diary entries.)

I met him for first time at the 1983 Libertarian National Convention at the Sheraton Hotel in New York. (This pic was taken there.) “He re­membered my name,” I recorded, “and when I discussed [Bernard] Lonergan’s economics briefly, he said Lonergan struck him as an ‘institutionalist.’” (September 4, 1983)

Continue reading “Murray Rothbard: on my late friend’s lamentable error”

What kind of Muslim is Wajahat Ali?

Every year around Christmas illiberal “liberals” (aka Progressives) lecture Christians, mostly those of the white conservative persuasion, about the “true meaning” of Jesus and how they obscure it. This year is no different.

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez. D-Ill., questions Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen as she testifies before the House Judiciary Committee Dec. 20, 2018. The congressman could have benefitted from getting manners for Christmas. Photo: SARAH SILBIGER /NYT / NYTNSRetiring Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) recently shouted at Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. “Shame on everybody that separates children and allows them to stay at the other side of the border fearing death, fearing hunger, fearing sickness,” he fulminated. “Shame on us for wearing our badge of Christianity during Christmas and allow the secretary to come here and lie!”

He  bolted from the hearing room before she could respond to his slander.

Gutierrez’s rhetoric was on par with his manners: the Roman Empire had impressive walls, but none prevented migration from Judea to Egypt, i.e., from one Roman province to another.

A few days after Gutierrez’s theatrics, the day after Christmas, Gustavo Perez Arriaga—gang-banger, DUI violator, and illegal immigrant—murdered Newman California Police Corporal Ronil Singh, thereby separating his child and wife from him. Permanently.Image result for ronil singh

Arriaga had snuck into the U.S. through Arizona. How many others like him are in the caravan passing through (if you can believe it) Arriaga, Mexico? Is it un-Christian to ask how likely any of them are to make orphans out of American children?

Or are we morally allowed to fixate solely on the tragedy of children whose migrant parents expose them to harm, sometimes fatally?

Wajahat Ali is a Muslim, perhaps the way Gutierrez is a Christian. He’s a Progressive who focuses on combating “hate,” especially “Islamophobia.” Cafeteria-style, he picks out what he likes about Islam and ignores the embarrassing remainder as if they were accidental features of Islam.

Image result for Wajahat AliThat is, Ali provides what William Kirkpatrick calls the “smiley-faced version of Islam which emphasizes the commonalities with Catholicism and leaves out the scary parts.” (“Pope Francis, Indifferentism, and Islamization,” Crisis Magazine, December 31, 2018)

Continue reading “What kind of Muslim is Wajahat Ali?”

Adolf Hitler: Socialist Activist

Going over articles by my friend Hugh Murray, a veteran of the civil rights movementImage result for hugh t. murray, jr (third from the right;  New Orleans lunch counter sit-in, September 9, 1960), I noticed in one of them his elaboration upon an inconvenient (for some) fact of Adolf Hitler’s political trajectory.

Rejected by several journals in the late ’90s, Hugh’s “Affirmative Action and the Nazis: Or: Why Liberals Cannot Understand a Holocaust” at last found a home in 2004.  Here’s the salient passage (lightly edited; my commentary follows):

Turmoil erupted inside Germany.  On New Years 1918-19, the radical Spartacists attempted a coup, but were foiled by soldiers returning from the fronts [of the Great War] who formed into new groups, the Freikorps (free corps). They killed the two Spartacist leaders, Karl Liebknecht and the Jewish Rosa Luxemburg.Karl and Rosa Elsewhere events went in the opposite direction. In the large southern German province of Bavaria a republic was also proclaimed, led by the Jewish journalist Kurt Eisner, then by the Jewish playwright Ernst Toller, and finally by the Jewish Communist Eugen Leviné . Apparently, one of the supporters of this radical Left regime was a young corporal, recently released, who had been gassed in the trenches toward war’s end, Adolf Hitler (far right, seated, with his Bavarian Reserve Infantry comrades).

The television program The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler: [Part] I, The Private Man contains some revealing sequences. [It’s available on YouTube.] I quote from the narration:

With the defeat [of Germany in 1918], revolution broke out across Germany. In Bavaria a revolutionary government was set up. Image result for kurt eisnerThe socialist president Kurt Eisner was shot on the street in [25] February 1919. The people turned out to say farewell. Hitler had returned to his Munich regiment, his only foothold, his only home. He was threatened with demobilization and a return to the hostel. A fellow soldier later remembered that Hitler seemed like a stray dog, searching for a new master. In the funeral procession for the Jewish Socialist Eisner was a detachment from Hitler’s regiment wearing both red armbands and black armbands. The film clip shows a lance corporal marching with the officers—Adolf Hitler. Continue reading “Adolf Hitler: Socialist Activist”